How to Hide Oil Storage Tanks or Large Ugly Objects with Screening Plants
Hiding Oil Storage Tanks
Whether oil storage tanks are placed up to the wall of the house or sited a few yards away in the garden, no-one can say that they are attractive, even if painted green. However, all utilitarian appliances or containers cannot be treated in any way that makes them not fully functional. I am often asked if the fumes, which arise from tanks, are harmful to vegetation and so far I know of no case where this has proved to be so. The liquid itself, however, is definitely harmful and will kill foliage as effectively as any weed killer. If the oil is allowed to run on the ground when the tank is being filled, drained or cleaned, then any roots touched by it may be damaged and if any quantity is spilled then plants may be killed.
There is an excusable and natural tendency to try to use quick growing subjects for screening, but it must be remembered that where vigorous subjects are used they will continue to grow long after they have covered the screen. I am thinking now of shrubs such as Polygonum baldschuanicum (Russian vine). This climber will grow 20 ft in a single season which means unless it is rigorously controlled the whole area will become a jungle and create a terrific amount of work besides making it awkward for access.
The trellis or screen itself needs to be substantial and durable and supporting posts, 3 in. by 3 in. or 4 in. by 4 in. are advisable. Longitudinal battens and wood trellis are then nailed on or, alternatively, 2-in mesh plastic netting attached. Personally, I have long since given up using green paint or green netting in the garden, preferring khaki or wood tan. Green draws attention and focuses the eye until it is completely covered, whilst browns or khaki melt into the background. This applies to stakes and posts too and, as these are uncovered for most of the time, they blend with the background of soil far better.
Tanks of course are more likely to be visible from upper windows than they are from the ground floor and there is no objection to taking trellis or rigid netting across the top provided, of course, sufficient headroom or space is left above the tank if the filler cap is on the top. Every site varies but in every case full use should be made of the natural conditions. In one instance I know, and with the co-operation of the firm concerned, the tank was actually built into the hillside with a rockery over the top and walling up the front, leaving only the valve connections visible. This was so successful that nothing at all was visible and the front wall was ideal for training various shrubs such as Cotoneaster horizontalis and clematis. Incidentally, this container held 8,000 gallons.
It is not necessary to use only clinging shrubs to screen walls or unsightly buildings. Many plants prefer to have their backs against a wall even though they are not actually climbers. Examples of these are Garrya elliptica and Cytisus battandieri both of which are evergreens and so give screening all the year round. Another trouble-free semi-climbing shrub which is a great favourite of mine is Lonicera fragrantissima which is evergreen most years and in favourable districts blooms practically all the year round. It never grows more than 8ft high and all it requires is to be clipped over with the shears to within 4 or 5 in. of the main branches every February.
Although it is very tempting to use rambler and climbing roses to cover such a utility trellis, I advise against it, for no matter how well they are trained there are bound to be thorny growths which make the manoeuvring of a heavy oil supply pipe difficult and vexatious. One rose however which is perfect for such a position is Zephirine Drouhin. This is completely thornless and makes very strong canes and growths which are easy to train and tie in and it needs little of the old wood cutting out.
There is nothing quite so effective as the ivies for providing evergreen cover and although this sounds Irish, the best of all evergreens requiring the least attention is the variety Buttercup (also known as Golden Cloud or Russell’s Gold). This is the best golden ivy that I know, it has small leaves and requires the minimum of attention. This variety, incidentally, also makes an excellent carpeting plant and I know of one large bed in the centre of London which is absolutely covered with gold and looks effective all the year round.
Other varieties are Marginata or Silver Queen and Tricolor (Marginata Rubra) which has grey-green leaves bordered with white and edged in winter with rosy red. As the ivies do not grow outwards, except in old age, they are better subjects for training up vertical supports than most other shrubs, including pyracantha which rapidly tends to reduce the space available between trellis and tank.